On 17th of September 2019 at approximately 7.00 a group of eight men in transit from Algeria and Morocco were stopped in Vela Voda (HR) in a mountainous area in the woods. The respondent pinned the location where the group was stopped on maps me, data which has provided the geolocation for this report. The group was stopped by six Croatian Special Forces officers wearing dark green uniforms. An unspecified number of officers were wearing black ski masks. The officers had pistols which they held in the direction of the respondent in order to intimidate the group.
All bags were taken from the group in transit and confiscated by the officers, along with clothing and shoes. Twenty euros were taken from the respondent and put into the pocket of one Croatian Special Forces officer. Six phones confiscated from the group were broken with batons by the officers. The broken remains of the men’s phones were then put into a pile with their clothing and shoes, and set on fire.
“They were laughing and they burned my clothes.”
The respondent reports that the authorities were laughing as their personal belongings were being destroyed in the fire. While the items were burning, authorities in black ski masks used batons to hit the respondent and his companions on the legs, causing at least one individual to bleed from his lower leg.
The group was forcibly removed from the wooded area and transported in two white police vans to Rijeka police station. They were detained at the station, during which time they were denied food. There was no translator present at the station. The respondent expressed intention for asylum, but got no response from the officers present. The officers only wanted to gather if the men had documents, aside from this, they did not speak to the detained transit group.
“They asked for passport and documents. We don’t have. Then they stop talking to us.”
Following this question there were no further conversations with the authorities in the station.
At 20:00, after approximately thirteen hours in detainment in the station in Rijeka (HR), the group was told to board two separate police vans. The respondent was placed inside a van along with others. The rear compartment had no windows, and they were locked in for approximately five hours, while the driver maneuvered the vehicle in a very erratic fashion. The respondent reports that the male officer who was driving made fast, sharp turns which made the group inside feel sick. The respondent vomited several times during the course of the journey.
The van drove through the night, stopping early the next day (approximately 01:00, 18th September 2019). The group had been driven to a point in Croatia near to the border with BiH, close to the town of Velika Kladuša. It was dark when the officer opened the van doors and unloaded the group. Here they were ejected from Croatian territory into BiH.